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CD Spotlight

A SENSE OF BALANCE

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'... authoritative and splendid performances ...'

Hummel back in the light -
with BASIL RAMSEY

 

Johann Nepomuk Hummel left a smallish yet distinct mark on early 19th century music. He came to the notice of Mozart and was a pupil before he moved on and upwards as a fine pianist and composer known throughout Europe. Events did not sustain this level of fame and both he and his music eventually suffered.

Luckily we are discovering Hummel as a fertile and polished composer, but not of such quality as to equate the greats of his period. Memorable tunes upon which to weave his classical elegance is about the sum of it, notwithstanding the unexpected modulations that 'lift' both the music and us.

Hummel chamber music. (c) 2000 ASV Ltd

Piano Quintet in E flat opus 87, the first work on this CD, possesses much of the maturity that projects Hummel at his best. When he mustered high quality basic material his skill unerringly placed it into the right context. This work is therefore a composite of four movements, each of which has a good store of material and imaginative development to engage the ear.

The Trio in E flat opus 12 - that much earlier- does not suffer from immaturity, so assured is the handling of material and a sense of balance judging the unfolding of each movement. As much as that sense of architecture, Hummel had so many good tunes to choose from. I leave the earliest work to last, not because it is an 'also ran'. In the Sonata in E flat for piano with Accompaniment for Viola opus 5 no 3 there are several important areas of intriguing musical light, which is not to say that its skill or content is superior to the other works. This Sonata, of which there are few such at this period, gives both instruments conventional partnership as a duo. It tends to be textually elaborate, and the quality - despite varying degrees of temperature - provides an ideal way of judging Hummel's musical acumen. It is for that very reason that I shall gladly return to the composer of two brilliant keyboard pieces I remember from years ago, and intend now to explore further.

Without the authoritative and splendid performances of The Music Collection, these chamber works would have less chance of recognition in these days when a multiplicity of ensembles seek repertoire of a later period. Susan Alexander-Max and her associates obviously take special pleasure in Hummel's style and period, which brings hope of recording more in due course.

 

Copyright © 21 October 2000 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK

 

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